Back in March, we reported the sale of The Independent and Independent on Sunday to Alexander Lebedev, the Russian billionaire. As Lebedev had turned his earlier purchase, the London Evening Standard, into a free newspaper, there was speculation that he might seek to cure the Indie’s financial problems in the same way. However, this was not to be. Instead, last week we saw the unveiling of a made-over Independent and the launch of a new populist sister title called i, which is priced at 20 pence.
With i, The Independent is taking a gamble that there is a class of newspaper reader that sees the virtues of a ‘quality newspaper’, but simply doesn’t have time to read such a lengthy publication. i attempts to attract these readers with a popular digest of news stories taken from The Independent, in a format that is deliberately colourful and ‘bite-size’ in its content.
Media commentator Roy Greenslade says in The Guardian: “The overall effect of i – the look, the pace and content taken together – strikes me as a sort of upmarket Metro, or even a British-style USA Today…i is what it says on the tin: a paper for time-poor people dashing between home and work. It is pleasantly designed, bright, colourful without being garish, easy to read, and fast-paced.”
To us, i looks like a very good and worthwhile play for an expanded Indie readership. The newspaper-strewn carriages of London’s trains demonstrate that people still want to read printed news on their morning journey. i offers a more ‘intelligent’ read than the low-brow Metro, which could mean image-conscious commuters turn to i as a way of making a personal statement. However, with paid-for newspapers suffering a long-term decline in circulation, the question is whether, even at only 20 pence, i will win enough of a readership to succeed financially.
While we await the answer, companies seeking to promote consumer-oriented news to affluent professionals should take a fresh look at the Independent as the editorial route to its new sibling.